Study Shows Pandemic Slowed Maine Beer Industry, But Recovery is Brewing

According to an economic impact report undertaken by the University of Maine and released today by the Maine Brewers’ Guild, Maine brewers managed to add $260,662,701 to the state economy in 2020, despite business interruptions.

Data for the Guild’s biennial economic impact study looked at 2020 business results, covering the lowest point of the pandemic for many brewers when tasting rooms and brew pubs remained closed. 

“Maine’s brewers have really built their brand by providing welcoming spaces and friendly service at their tasting rooms,” said Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild. “When they lost that ability to bring visitors in, businesses took a hit. Of course, like many industries, our brewers also faced supply chain challenges, staffing shortages, and increasing costs.”

However, more recent data shows Maine brewers are back on track to grow their businesses and positive contributions to the state in 2022 and beyond.

While a few breweries did shutter amidst the pandemic, Maine’s brewery count has continued to grow with 160 breweries now licensed in the state, up from the pre-pandemic number of 154. And it’s not just the number of breweries- it’s also where they are located. Breweries have been opening all over the state, often filling in regional gaps where no other brewery existed.

According to Sullivan, there is still room for this industry to grow in Maine. When brewers surveyed for the latest report were asked how they felt about the future, an overwhelming 92 percent predicted their sales would grow over the next five years.

While predictions of growth often focus on the number of breweries in the state, the more telling metric is market share. Maine brewers were selling only about 9.5 percent of all beer sold in Maine in 2015. In 2020, that figure increased to roughly 14 percent.

“Mainers and visitors are increasingly choosing to buy and enjoy local beer, and that’s having a positive impact on our state’s economy,” said Sullivan.

As the industry continues to mature, Sullivan expects to see small breweries play an important role. According to the 2020 report, the average number of barrels produced by smaller breweries has more than doubled since the first economic report released in 2017. While industry growth was long fueled by large brewers, these days that trend has reversed with small brewers driving a greater increase in employment and economic output.

Other avenues for sales also buoyed Maine brewers, with beer delivery, beer to go, and the addition of food offerings helping to round out Maine brewers’ businesses during this pandemic.

“We’ve spent the past 10 years building a collaborative community of brewers, service providers, vendors, and beer fans in Maine,” said Sullivan. “This is a story of resilience, and it’s this same community which will help Maine brewers stand out in a crowded marketplace as we venture into this new economy.”

The Maine Brewers’ Guild examines the economic impact of the industry biennially in collaboration with The University of Maine. The guild is committed to promoting the craft beer industry through education, legislation, and collaboration.  On March 31, 2022, MBG will return to in-person events with the 2022 New England Craft Brew Summit, the Northeast’s largest industry conference on the business of beer.

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